To insult someone is to insult the God who created them
The section of the Sermon on the Mount subtitled “Anger” (ESV), “Concerning Anger” (NRSV), or “Murder” (NIV) in Matthew 5:21-27 is both familiar and strange. We understand what it means to insult someone and to be angry with someone, but we may not be sure what “raca” means, nor possibly would we understand why the punishment for doing so is to be “in danger of hell fire”. What is the difference between the “judgement” and the “council”? How does one pay a debt to the last penny when one is stuck in a debtors’ prison? Like much in the Sermon on the Mount, there’s some digging to do before the passage is as clear to us as it would have been to the Galilean fishermen who first hear it. Continue reading “Murder, Anger, and Reconciliation”
We always try to use the best tools for our regular day work, we should do the same in our Bible study
Today we have a wealth of modern lexical tools available to us. Yet so many people ignore all this, and use Gesenius, or Strong’s, or Young’s, or Vine’s, tools which are massively out of date, sometimes wildly inaccurate, and theologically biased.
A small example demonstrating the interaction of culture and text
Historical and cultural context matter in matters both big and small when it comes to reading and understanding the bible.
As the bible student Alan Hayward observed “Bible verses only make sense if you study them in their context, that is, their setting. You need to read the verses on either side of the verse in question. As I have pointed out on several occasions, you also need to make allowance for Hebrew idiom.”1Continue reading “Culture and the Widow of Zaraphath”
…he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross
Crucifixion was considered worse than decapitation, being killed by wild animals, or being burnt alive.1 It was considered “a terrible calamity”2, it “was a punishment in which the caprice and sadism of the executioners were given full rein;”3 it was the supreme Roman punishment. Continue reading “The Shame of the Cross”
I never read THAT before – and I know what you said is wrong.
Sometimes you just know what the bible says – except that you don’t. Case in point, someone asked me why you could have a Passover Goat. Of course I knew this was not possible, but they insisted their version said it was ok. I checked. Continue reading “Passover goats”
Taking the time to carefully understand the Biblical culture of the passage at hand
“We can easily forget that Scripture is a foreign land and that reading the Bible is a crosscultural experience. To open the Word of God is to step into a strange world where things are very unlike our own. Most of us don’t speak the languages.We don’t know the geography or the customs or what behaviours are considered rude or polite. And yet we hardly notice… we tend to read Scripture in our own ‘when’ and ‘where’, in a way that makes sense on our terms.” 1
Those who have had the opportunity to travel overseas understand the need to learn about local culture in the places they are going to visit. It could be dangerous not to! You might behave quite differently in Dubai compared to how you would in London or New York. Yet we can be so familiar with the Bible that we forget that opening its pages is an experience of different languages and cultures to our own. Continue reading “Bridging the Gap – Culture and Language”
To really understand our Bible, we must find ways to bridge the gap between its time and place, and our time and place.
We are separated from the people who wrote and received books of the Bible by between 2000 and 5000 years. That’s a long time! We look at black and white pictures of our grandparents or great-grandparents and wonder about how different their world was. They lived only a hundred or so years ago, the Bible is from 2000 years ago.
God preserved the Bible for us, but it was first written to another people in another time.
Why does the Bible need to be studied? Isn’t its message simple enough to be understood by anyone? Surely it would be unfair of God to expect people to believe him and live according to his Word if it wasn’t able to be understood by everyone? Has not God chosen the ‘foolish’ of this world? Continue reading “The Bible is simple… right?”
How Christ’s audience would have understood his teaching on the salt of the earth
Very early in the Sermon on the Mount, straight after the opening discourse on the blessings on mourners, peacemakers, and the merciful, Christ used two metaphors to describe what the disciples were to be: they were to be the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. We’re going to look at the first of these. Continue reading “The Salt of the Earth”